NEW YORK — When CUNA members attend a game at Yankee Stadium during the group’s annual conference here, they’ll be watching a team whose values and traditions are polar opposites to those of credit unions.
Throughout their history, the Yankees have been baseball’s quintessential overdogs. By contrast, a few years ago CUNA ran a successful advertising campaign that featured “the little guy.”
Is it purely coincidental that the year credit unions came into existence in the United States–1908–is the last time that those perennial underdogs–the Chicago Cubs–won the World Series?
Although Yankee Stadium is located in an area beset by urban blight and low-income housing, that’s about as close as most of their employees come to connecting with an underserved population. The team cares so much about the less fortunate that the construction of new stadium is forcing them to tear down a popular community park.
If the Yankees were a financial institution, they’d be the Bank of America: big, sprawling and eager to overtake anything in its site that’s up for sale, or even initiate a hostile takeover of something that’s not.
You could craft the following SAT word association: The Yankees are to credit unions what Angelina Jolie is to Wal-Mart.
The Bronx Bombers spend more on towels for their locker rooms than some teams do on their entire payrolls.
OK. That may be a bit of an exaggeration. But not by much. The salary of the team’s top player–Alex Rodriguez–is $24 million. That’s half of the entire Pittsburgh Pirates payroll of $49 million.
The Yankees’ salaries were so high that their fellow owners instituted a luxury tax for teams with a payroll of $148 million. The Yankees, whose 2007 payroll was $207.7 million, were one of only two teams (the other was the Boston Red Sox) who had to pay up.
It’s not, however, just about money.
Credit unions are rightly admired for working in the trenches and being modest about their deeds. They are the unsung heroes of the financial services world.
By contrast, when you think of the Yankees the word “unsung,” is not the first thing that comes to mind.
Their none-too-subtle marketing slogan is “the most successful franchise in sports history.”
Yankee Stadium, which has been the team’s home since 1923, is described as the place “where players become legends.”
Compare that to such famous credit union industry slogans, such as “people first, profits second.”
The Yankees have made many valuable contributions to baseball: including 26 world championships and Hall of Fame ballplayers such as Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
And as a lifelong fan of the team that plays its games in the House that Ruth Built, I am well aware that there is much about them to honor and celebrate.
But having credit union executives help make an already wealthy organization even richer is anything but an example of Yankee ingenuity.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Marx’s opinions do not necessarily reflect those of CU Times or its staffers in the Hoboken, N.J., office.